Spare Time

THE NATURE OF THINGS

Walk into the Cox London showroom in the Pimlico Road design district, and Nature is everywhere: here a metal wall light looking like a pair of oak twigs with every curve of leaf and turn of stem completely realistic, there a table whose top is supported by branching waterlily pads. As Cicero observed, “Art is born of the observation and investigation of Nature,” and for the namesake owners, Nicola and Chris Cox, the observation of Nature is the beginning of everything they do. Nearly everything at Cox London is hand-made in its own foundry and workshop. Ironwork predominates, so it is no surprise to learn that the pair who designed these pieces, and many more, met while studying sculpture at Wimbledon School of Art (now Wimbledon College of Arts).

The couple are avid nature lovers. You might expect such a couple to live in a tree house, but home for them is a comfortable house built in 1911 in a North London suburb. With its original millwork, windows, and cornices still intact, the dwelling provides a sedate counterpoint to the couple’s extraordinary mix of antique and modern pieces. “We’ve pared the house back without destroying its character,” says Nicola. The gray walls in the groundfloor rooms have a soft, almost velvety, texture. It is a finish invented by Chris’s best friend from art school, Daniel Dixon-Spain. As Chris characterizes his friend and his technique, “He’s a plaster obsessive, and he calls this his ‘Modern Concrete’. It’s all in the trowelling.”

In the back half of the long, narrow living room, a comfortable pair of 1960s chairs and matching sofa—all covered in ecru linen—sit opposite an 18th-century marble fireplace; to the left of the hearth is a giant piece of burr oak, cut from the trunk of an infected tree, which they have topped with a slim bronze layer to make a side table. They have taken a mold from this fascinating phenomenon and cast it in jesmonite (a sturdy sculptor’s plaster which provides very accurate molds); they sell the resulting side tables in their showroom. A marble-topped metal table of their design stands nearby, flanked by a delicate pair of 18th-century ebony and gilded side chairs bought from Chris’s antiques-dealer father. Indeed, 12 members of his family work in the sale of antiques. His grandfather, a legend in the trade and someone with a deep affection for early Italian ironwork (as well as a man whose motto was “the earlier the better”), gave Chris, while a teenager, his first job and inspired his grandson’s future career.

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INTERIOR DESIGN BY NICOLA AND CHRIS COX
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SIMON BROWN
PRODUCED BY KATRIN CARGILL
WRITTEN BY ELFREDA POWNALL

This story appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of MILIEU.